I’m not a smart man, so when a person with a badge that says “scienceologist” on it sits me down and tells me a science fact, I have no choice but to believe her. She’s done all that sciencology work, after all. That’s what of University of Leicester’s School of Psychology did when they forwarded me their paper “Selectively enhanced motion perception in core video gamers”. With the help of a sock puppet and a book chewable corners, they informed me that that video gamers have a very specific perceptual advantage: moving backwards.
Think about it. How often do you walk backwards in real-life? Now how often do you do it in a game? Exactly. The researchers conducted a series of tests between games and non-gamers to examine the effect of playing video games on motion perception. For the most part there was no difference, apart from that one key area.
The only significant difference was in the case of contracting radial motion – which we would generally only experience when travelling backwards and seeing our surroundings shrinking away towards the distance.
Gamers proved to be significantly better at detecting this motion than non-gamers.
The researchers believe this is because walking backwards is a fairly common movement in the world of action games, particularly when a player is dodging an enemy or exploring an area.
In contrast, we would very rarely walk backwards with our eyes fixed forward in everyday life.
The test subjects, 16 action video game players – who played for more than 10 hours a week – along with 16 people who played action games for less than an hour per week, were asked to watch a screen with 400 dots moving on a grey background. Some moved randomly, while other followed a pattern. The fewer dots it took for the subject recognise the movement, the better their perception. So well done, action gamers: you now have proof that you’re better at moon-walking, baseball, and backing away from angry cats.